HOULTON, Maine — Despite mild concern from town councilors and community members, the panel on Monday evening approved the purchase of a new vehicle for the police department.
Some attendees were not in favor of waiving the bid process to acquire the 2013 Ford Explorer and also questioned the necessity of purchasing an SUV instead of a customary police cruiser.
During the meeting, councilors entertained a motion to waive the bid process and purchase the $26,683 vehicle from York’s of Houlton. Phil Bernaiche, a Houlton resident, spoke out against waiving the bid process. He felt that the town might find a lower price if it put the request out to bid.
Houlton Police Chief Butch Asselin said that if the bid process was not waived, the department likely would not be able to get the vehicle until October. He also said that York’s is the only local authorized dealer of police vehicles and that the department has always found the company’s price to be competitive.
Town Manager Gene Conlogue agreed, saying that past municipalities he has managed have gotten vehicles from York’s and they have always provided a competitive price and excellent service.
The town customarily purchases its police cruisers from the business.
Chairman Paul Cleary told Asselin that a number of community members asked him prior to the meeting why the department needed an SUV.
The chief said that there was not a big difference between the price of a police cruiser and an SUV.
“These are the offices for the officers,” Asselin explained. “They are in them eight hours a day, so you want them to be comfortable. The Explorer is also roomier.”
He added that an SUV provides much more space for the equipment that officers need to carry, and they are much better for winter use.
“The [police] cars are terrible in the snow,” he told the council.”They get stuck and don’t have the power of an SUV.”
Councilors eventually voted 4-2 in favor of waiving the bid process and making the purchase.
Councilors John White and Phil Cloney voted in opposition.